1 Tahrcountry Musings: March 2012

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Here is a paradox - Norway is investing more than 13 billion dollars in dozens of companies linked to deforestation

Norway is pumping in hundreds of millions of dollars a year to protect rainforests. A great gesture by all means, but here comes the paradox. Norway is investing more than 13 billion dollars in companies linked to deforestation, via its pension funds.  This is 27 times more than Norway spends on rainforest protection. This is not hearsay. The allegation is in a report published by Rainforest Foundation Norway and Friends of the Earth Norway. The investment is in seven controversial industry sectors, palm oil, oil and gas, mining, the meat industry, the logging and pulp industry, soy production and hydroelectric energy.

Read the report by Rainforest Foundation Norway and Friends of the Earth Norway HERE

Friday, March 30, 2012

The importance of frugivorous birds in human-impacted landscapes

Species richness matters for the quality of ecosystem services: a test using seed dispersal by frugivorous birds
Daniel García and Daniel Martínez
Published online before print March 28, 2012, doi: 10.1098/rspb.2012.0175, Proc. R. Soc. B

In ecological science the positive link between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning is an established paradigm. In spite of this importance we do not have much idea  of how different attributes of species assemblages condition the quality of many services in real ecosystems affected by human impact.

 Here the researchers explore the links between the attributes of a frugivore assemblage and the quantitative and qualitative components of its derived ecosystem service, seed dispersal, along a landscape-scale gradient of anthropogenic forest loss. The researchers say both the number and the richness of seeds being dispersed were positively related to frugivore abundance and richness.

Seed dispersal quality, determined by the fine-scale spatial patterns of seed deposition, mostly depended on frugivore richness. The researchers emphasize that richness was the only attribute of the frugivore assemblage affecting the probability of seed dispersal into deforested areas of the landscape.

The researchers contend that the positive relationships between frugivore richness per se  and all components of seed dispersal suggest the existence of functional complementarity and/or facilitation between frugivores.
 The researchers sign off with the following words “These links also point to the whole assemblage of frugivores as a conservation target, if we aim to preserve a complete seed dispersal service and, hence, the potential for vegetation regeneration and recovery, in human-impacted landscapes”.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Petition to Ban horrific Hare Coursing Cruelty in Ireland

Live Hare Coursing is a horrific form of animal cruelty. Majority of Irish people want it outlawed. In this sport hares are set up as bait for greyhounds to chase. Many hares are killed or horribly injured each year as they are mauled viciously on the coursing fields’. Some face agonising death as result of internal injuries and breakage of bones.

A member of Ireland's parliament, the Dail, will attempt in the coming months to have hare coursing banned. Irish conservationists desperately need people from around the world to petition the government of Ireland, requesting its support for this Bill. Each time a person signs it, an email immediately goes to the Taoiseach and Tanaiste (Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister of Ireland) requesting their support for the Bill.
You can a sign a petition HERE

Here is video showing exactly what happens in Hare Coursing

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

General connectivity improvement and clearly localised connectivity improvement can be efficient compensation measures for area loss

Trading connectivity improvement for area loss in patch-based biodiversity reserve networks
Thomas Dalang and Anna M. Hersperger
Biological Conservation Volume 148, Issue 1, Pages 116-125

Here is a good paper on connectivity.
In densely populated countries it often becomes imperative to compensate for biotope loss by improving connectivity. Creation of new biotopes takes too long.

Here the researchers analysed four compensation scenarios. The scenarios vary in how strong loss and compensation is locally fixed. The reserve network was modelled as a graph.  Biotope patches are represented by nodes and connectivity corresponds to edges along which animals migrate from patch to patch. Connectivity improvement was modelled as a reduction of edge lengths. Ecological equivalence was measured by metapopulation capacity as defined by Hanski and Ovaskainen (2000). Localised modifications were analysed with eigenanalysis. Modifications spread over the whole component were analyzed with a linear regression model. This uses the total biotope area and the length of the minimal spanning tree as input. The results clearly showed that both general connectivity improvement and clearly localised connectivity improvement can be efficient compensation measures for area loss.

The researchers sign off saying that their results clearly show that connectivity improvement is a valuable compensation alternative to creation of new patches.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A video from EIA and Telepak

This video from the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and Telepak documents forest depredation in Indonesian Borneo, and its impact on the indigenous Dayak Benuaq people.

Muara Tae Diaries from EIA on Vimeo.

Sacred natural sites of the world - IUCN WCPA news release

A new initiative to protect the sacred natural sites of the world
26 March 2012 | Article

Sacred Natural Sites are areas of rich and diverse nature that have special spiritual significance to individuals and to communities. They are important locations for supporting threatened human cultures as well as declining plant and animal life. They are considered the world’s oldest form of protected area and some are among the most charismatic places on Earth. At the heart of sacred natural sites are their custodians. These are the individuals, families and communities that protect these sites on a day-to-day basis. 

Many of these critical sacred areas have already been lost and many more are under threat. Modernization, industrialization, population pressure and changing values are all contributing to their disappearance. Urgent action is needed to protect those that remain and restore those that have been damaged.

For nearly 14 years WCPA’s volunteer Specialist Group on the Cultural and Spiritual Values of Protected Areas (CSVPA: ) and its partner institutions have been working to learn more about sacred natural sites and bring them to the attention of the conservation community. The objective has been to gain recognition, management and support particularly to custodian communities, leading to positive conservation outcomes.

Achievements to date include management and policy support but also over 10 international learning events and several publications. Notably are the Delos Initiative’s three volumes on sacred natural sites focusing on developed countries, the IUCN-UNESCO Best Practice Guidelines 16: Sacred Natural Sites Guidelines for Protected Area Managers – and the the book Sacred Natural Sites: Conserving Nature and Culture.

An initiative dedicated to the protection, conservation and revitalization of sacred natural sites is now in its early stages of development. A preliminary action plan for the conservation of sacred natural sites has been developed based on consultation, experience and collaboration with many custodians and conservationists.

Custodian communities are of central importance to the conservation of the cultural and natural values of sacred natural sites. The initiative is proposed to support site custodians to promote, conserve and restore sacred natural sites protecting both biological and cultural diversity. To this end the Sacred Natural Sites Initiative focuses on:

Hosting custodians led initiative to bring their voices to a wider audience and provide practical support for conserving sacred lands;
Working with partners in the nature conservation community to promote and enabling environment for better support and management of sacred natural lands, landscapes and territories;
Engaging with stakeholders, sectoral interests and the wider public to promote awareness and respectful relationships.
Are you interested in finding out how you can help or simply want to learn more?
Please visit the website of the Sacred Natural Sites Initiative, sign up for our news updates or contact us at info@sacrednaturalsites.org
Text: Bas Verschuuren and Robert Wild

Monday, March 26, 2012

Resolving challenges to interdisciplinary research should be context specific

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Challenges to Interdisciplinary Research in Ecosystem-Based Management

Conservation Biology, Volume 26, Issue 2, pages 315–323, April 2012

There are many votaries for integration of natural and social sciences to inform conservation efforts. But the progress in this direction has been tardy.

The researchers here examined the views of 63 scientists and practitioners involved in marine management in Mexico's Gulf of California, the central California coast, and the western Pacific on the challenges associated with integrating social science into research efforts that support ecosystem-based management (EBM) in marine systems. They used a semi-structured interview format.

Questions focused on how EBM was developed for these sites and how contextual factors affected its development and outcomes. Many of imponderables linked with interdisciplinary research were present in the EBM projects that the researchers put under their scanner. The researchers say a number of contextual elements affected how mandates to include social science were interpreted and implemented as well as how easily challenges could be addressed. They say a common challenge is that conservation organizations are often dominated by natural scientists, but for some projects it was easier to address this imbalance than for others. They also found that the management and institutional histories that came before EBM in specific cases were important features of local context. There cannot be a one shot solution that fits all contexts. Challenges differ among cases.  The researchers affirm that resolving challenges to interdisciplinary research should be context specific.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

What is a sacred natural site?

"What is a sacred natural site and what does it mean to you?"

This video is couple of months old. It was my discussion with my friend Ramesh, this evening that prompted me to post this video here. This film has been created by sacrednaturalsites.org an initiative of the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas Specialist Group on Cultural and Spiritual Values of Protected Areas.

What is a sacred natural site? from Sacred Natural Sites on Vimeo.

Nature conservation - From stakeholders to stakesharers

Reframing the conception of nature conservation management by transdisciplinary methodology: From stakeholders to stakesharers
Gregor Torkar and Sue L.T. McGregor
Journal for Nature Conservation, Volume 20, Issue 2, March 2012, Pages 65–71

 Nature conservation is all about dealing with human–nature interface problems. Here the researchers examine how the transdisciplinary methodology can help improve community-based conservation approaches.

 The researchers say transdisciplinarity is an extremely promising global movement that promotes a new approach to the creation of human knowledge. It includes dialogue among the natural sciences, social sciences and humanities as well as with civil society, where the problems of the world are lived out on a daily basis. The intent of taking down the walls between the disciplines and civil society is to enable new types of knowledge to emerge through complex and integrated, mutually learned insights.

 The four pillars (axioms) of the transdisciplinary methodology – multiple levels of Reality (ontology), the logic of the included middle, emergent complexity (epistemology) and integral value constellations (axiology) – are explained. The role each one of these axioms plays in reframing our conception of the conservation of nature is also dealt with in detail.

The researchers contend that a transdisciplinary methodology helps everyone feel as if they are stakesharers rather than stakeholders.

 The researchers sign off with the following words “Almost everyone is familiar with the term stakeholder, referring to someone who can affect, or can be affected by others’, decisions. To have a stake in something means people share or have an involvement in it. We coined the term stakesharer to reflect the idea that, within transdisciplinary work, people share ideas, solutions, threats and opportunities as they try to stake out their collective response to human–nature interface problems.”

Saturday, March 24, 2012

China should be stripped of its "approved buyer" status for legal ivory demands EIA

According to the latest report by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), approved legal auctions of ivory by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) to Japan and China has increased, rather than decreased as promised, the illegal trade. EIA says the black market in China is flourishing. Up to 90 percent of ivory sold in China was in fact from illegal sources. Guangzhouis is the epicenter of the illegal trade. EIA alleges that the Chinese Government has profiteered from selling legal ivory. In 2008, the Chinese government paid around $157 per kilo of ivory, and then sold it to traders for almost ten times as much. This has turned topsy-turvy the whole calculations of the international community of conservationists. Legalising the trade has not given any positive results. The EIA unequivocally says China should be stripped of its "approved buyer" status for legal ivory, and has demanded for an independent investigation of the ivory trade in China.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Man-made noise affects plants also

Noise pollution alters ecological services: enhanced pollination and disrupted seed dispersal
Clinton D. Francis, Nathan J. Kleist,Catherine P. Ortega and Alexander Cruz
 March 21, 201210.1098/rspb.2012.0230Proc. R. Soc. B

Here the researchers examined the effects of noise pollution on pollination and seed dispersal and seedling establishment within a study system that isolated the effects of noise from confounding stimuli common to human-altered landscapes. They found that effects of noise pollution can reverberate through communities by disrupting or enhancing these ecological services. 

The study emphasizes that investigators should evaluate the ecological consequences of noise alongside other human-induced environmental changes that are reshaping human-altered landscapes worldwide.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Should the location of newly discovered species be hidden?

I just read this excellent article titled “Should the location of newly discovered species be hidden?” in BBC news. It is a thought provoking article that has to be read by all conservationists.

Giving the exact location of newly discovered species can mean exposing rare and vulnerable animals to the dark world of the wildlife pet trade, with catastrophic results. It is happening in many parts of the world. The article is a warning to scientists who broadcast from the rooftops.

Read the full article HERE

Genetically modified seeds and the decline of Monarch butterfly

 Decline of monarch butterflies overwintering in Mexico: is the migratory phenomenon at risk?

Insect Conservation and Diversity,Volume 5, Issue 2, pages 95–100, March 2012

 Latest research by researchers at the University of Minnesota and Iowa State University indicate that genetically engineered corn and soybeans could put the iconic monarch butterfly in peril. The total area in Mexico occupied by the eastern North American population of overwintering monarch butterflies has reached an all-time low.

 Scientists say the decline in abundance is statistically significant using both linear and exponential regression models. Continued land development and severe weather are aggravating the situation.

Between 1999 and 2010 when GMO crops became a rage with the farmers, the number of monarch eggs declined by an estimated 81 percent across the Midwest.  Scientists link the decline directly to milkweed, the host plant for the eggs and caterpillars of monarch butterfly that is facing near extermination owing to the widespread use of genetically modified seeds.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Study of hibernation in black bears brings unexpected bonanza

Scientists studying hibernation by black bears (Ursus americanus Pallas, 1780) were surprised to observe that hibernating American black bears exhibit profound abilities in mounting inflammatory responses to infection and/or foreign bodies. The bears resolve injuries during hibernation while maintaining mildly hypothermic states (30–35 °C) and without eating, drinking, urinating or defecating.  Usually even mildly hypothermic body or limb temperatures can retard healing processes in mammals. 

The researchers induced small, full-thickness cutaneous wounds (biopsies or incisions) during early denning, and re-biopsied sites 2–3 months later (near the end of denning). Routine histological methods were used to characterize these skin samples. All biopsied sites with respect to secondary intention (open circular biopsies) and primary intention (sutured sites) healed, with evidence of initial eschar (scab) formation, completeness of healed epidermis and dermal layers, dyskeratosis (inclusion cysts), and abilities to produce hair follicles.

The researchers say further research in to the underlying mechanisms of wound healing during hibernation could have applications in human medicine. They add that unique approaches may be found to improve healing for malnourished, hypothermic, diabetic and elderly patients or to reduce scarring associated with burns and traumatic injuries.

Journal reference
Wound healing during hibernation by black bears (Ursus americanus) in the wild: elicitation of reduced scar formation
Paul A. IAIZZo,Timothy G. LASKE,Henry J. HARLOw,Carolyn B. McCLAy and David L. GARSHELIS
Integrative Zoology,Volume 7, Issue 1, pages 48–60, March 2012

Monday, March 19, 2012

Carbon stock data for the world's tropical forests

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Based on satellite measurements from NASA including LiDAR and MoDIS data plus on-the-ground field measurements, researchers have posted carbon stock data for the world's tropical forests on ArcGIS Online.

The data of the biomass of tropical forests is at a 500-meter resolution.This kind of resolution for the biomass of tropical forests has  never been seen before. The national level data set is freely available for use for scientific, conservation, and educational purposes. Users should agree to cite the dataset as: A. Baccini, S J. Goetz, W.S. Walker, N. T. Laporte, M. Sun, D. Sulla-Menashe, J. Hackler, P.S.A. Beck, R. Dubayah, M.A. Friedl, S. Samanta and R. A. Houghton.
To access data click HERE

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Guest post from Ramesh

Here is another guest post from Ramesh.

Aldo Leopold, the father of wildlife management once wrote “Like winds and sunsets, wild things were taken for granted until progress began to do away with them. Now we face the question whether a still higher "standard of living" is worth its cost in things natural, wild, and free. For us of in the minority, the opportunity to see geese is more important than television, and the chance to find a pasque-flower is a right as inalienable as free speech.”

My recent visit to some of the wildlife reserves of Kerala makes me wonder whether most of the managers, managing the wildlife reserves, are really aware of what they are doing. Most of the guys I met are foresters with no deep roots in wildlife management. How come the state Government is not sending these guys at least for short term courses in wildlife management? Some of the costly mistake they are doing right now could be avoided with proper training. My friend Mohanji once told me “If you want to know exactly what to do with landscape management you should know what are the requirements of the animals that you manage, you should be able to think like an animal. For example your boss asks you to make water holes. Does the species that you manage needs water at the specific points mentioned by your boss? To come to proper conclusion you should read everything that you can lay your hands on, concerning the ecology and behaviour of the animals that you manage. Here comes the appropriateness of the idea of thinking like an animal”. How many of our manager guys read the latest literature?

 I am still baffled why the Government does not send the guys for management training at the Wildlife Institute. The institute is finding it difficult to get trainee officers. The entire expenses are born by the central Government. Is it tardiness from the Government officials or are the guys unwilling to let go their cushy posting? Where is the hitch?

 I keep on hearing about the unnecessary thrust on eco-tourism. This in the long run will only harm the wildlife and the environment. Eco-tourism is a nice management tool but let us not kill the golden goose. I also hear about the idea of introduction of exotic fishes in the water bodies of the wildlife reserves? Is it being done after a proper study of the ecological implications?

 I am a wee bit pessimistic about the future of wildlife in Kerala. When charlatans manage wildlife reserves, by-passing properly trained guys the future looks very bleak indeed.

Nice camera trap video

I ran into this video recently. It clearly shows the potential of camera traps. I was particularly fascinated by the golden cat shown in the video. It looks exactly like the elusive “Pohayan” which I once espied in Eravikulam National Park.

Book Recommendation

Birds of the Indian Subcontinent Richard Grimmett, Carol Inskipp and Tim Inskipp
 Softcover | 2012 | Edition: 2 Publisher: Princeton University Press, Date: February, 2012 Binding: paperback, Pages: 528, Size: 5.5″ x 8.5″
 ISBN-10: 0691153493
ISBN-13: 978-0691153490

 Yesterday I had a look at the second edition of the groundbreaking book "Birds of the Indian Subcontinent" (1998). This sure is an eminently useful guide. It covers all the bird species found in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and the Maldives. Some of the plates in the previous edition were a wee bit gawky. The plates have been repainted for this edition. This new edition is now the best book available for birding. It is up-to-date taxonomically than all the competing guides except Birds of South Asia: The Ripley Guide (Rasmussen and Anderton 2005, Lynx Editions). Many new species have been added based on recent taxonomic changes

 Recommended unconditionally

 Richard Grimmett is Head of Conservation at BirdLife International. Carol and Tim Inskipp are freelance wildlife consultants.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Sex and the fruit fly

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I was fascinated to read this report about Male fruit flies that have been rejected by females drinking significantly more alcohol. The authors of this report says the brain’s reward systems reinforce behaviours required for species survival, including sex, food consumption, and social interaction. Drugs of abuse co-opt these neural pathways, which can lead to addiction.

The researchers used Drosophila melanogaster to investigate the relationship between natural and drug rewards. The researchers think alcohol stimulates the flies' brains as a "reward" akin to sexual conquest.

In males, mating increased, whereas sexual deprivation reduced, neuropeptide F (NPF) levels. Activation or inhibition of the NPF system in turn reduced or enhanced ethanol preference. According to the researcher NPF levels are some kind of 'molecular signature' to the experience.

 Journal reference

Sexual Deprivation Increases Ethanol Intake in Drosophila

G. Shohat-Ophir1,2,, K. R. Kaun, R. Azanchi, U. Heberlein

Science 16 March 2012: ,Vol. 335 no. 6074 pp. 1351-1355

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Here is one prime example showing why we should conserve natural forests

Natural forests, particularly rainforest are a treasure trove of medicinal plants. Many discoveries are waiting to come to light. Sadly many are gone forever before we even study them. Currently less than 5 percent of the world's tropical forest plants have been tested for medicinal properties.
Spilanthes extract (Acmella Oleracea) is a plant traditionally used by Peruvian indigenous people Keshwa Lamas, for toothache. Now scientists from Cambridge University headed by Dr Françoise Barbira Freedman have discovered that this is a potent anaesthetic that could put an end to some injections in the dentist’s surgery. The medicinal gel is currently in trials and is expected to be in the market by 2014 or 2015.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Identifying which species should be given restoration priority in the context of different restoration targets

Understanding and planning ecological restoration of plant–pollinator networks 
Mariano Devoto,Sallie Bailey,Paul Craze and Jane Memmott
 Ecology Letters, Volume 15, Issue 4, pages 319–328, April 2012  

 It is a fact that theory developed from studying changes in the structure and function of communities during natural or managed succession can give us clues to the restoration of particular communities.

Here the researchers constructed 30 quantitative plant–flower visitor networks along a managed successional gradient to identify the main drivers of change in network structure. They then applied two alternative restoration strategies in silico (restoring for functional complementarity or redundancy) to data from their early successional plots to examine how different strategies changed restoration trajectories.

 The researchers explain changes in network structure by a combination of age, tree density and variation in tree diameter, even when variance explained by undergrowth structure was accounted for first. A combination of field data, a network approach and numerical simulations helped the researchers to identify which species should be given restoration priority in the context of different restoration targets.

 The researcher says their combined approach provides a powerful tool for directing management decisions, particularly when management seeks to restore or conserve ecosystem function. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Favourable ocean currents and the dispersal of leatherback turtle hatchlings

On the dispersal of leatherback turtle hatchlings from Mesoamerican nesting beaches
George L. Shillinger, Emanuele Di LorenzoHao Luo,Steven J. BogradElliott L. HazenHelen Bailey and James R. Spotila
Proc. R. Soc. B, Published online before print February 29, 2012, doi: 10.1098/rspb.2011.2348

Very little is known about the early life history of leatherback turtles (Dermochelys coriacea) from hatchling to adulthood. This lack of information has led scientists to call this period as the ‘lost years’.

 Here the researchers investigate leatherback hatchling dispersal from four Mesoamerican nesting beaches using passive tracer experiments within a regional ocean modelling system.

The strong influence of eddy transport and coastal currents were clearly discernible. The researchers say modelled hatchlings from Playa Grande, Costa Rica, were most likely to be entrained and transported offshore by large-scale eddies coincident with the peak leatherback nesting and hatchling emergence period. They go on to add that eddies potentially serve as ‘hatchling highways’, providing a means of rapid offshore transport away from predation and a productive refuge within which newly hatched turtles can develop.

The researchers hypothesize that the most important leatherback nesting beach remaining in the eastern Pacific (Playa Grande) has been evolutionarily selected as an optimal nesting site owing to favourable ocean currents that enhance hatchling survival.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Understanding the relevance of Ecological Traps

How the type of anthropogenic change alters the consequences of ecological traps
Robert J. Fletcher Jr, John L. Orrock, and Bruce A. Robertson
 Proc. R. Soc. B, Published online before print February 29, 2012, doi: 10.1098/rspb.2012.0139

To understand species responses to rapid environmental change a proper understanding of ecological and evolutionary dynamics in novel environments is vital. One fundamental concept relevant in this respect is the ecological trap.

 Ecological trap arises from rapid anthropogenic change and can be a causative factor for extinction. The researchers here say ecological traps occur when formerly adaptive habitat preferences become maladaptive because the cues individuals preferentially use in selecting habitats lead to lower fitness than other alternatives. Traps can arise from different types of anthropogenic change but the resulting consequences of these different types of traps remain unknown.

Using a novel model framework that builds upon the Price equation from evolutionary genetics, the researchers provide the first analysis that contrasts the ecological and evolutionary consequences of ecological traps arising from two general types of perturbations known to trigger traps. Their model suggests that traps arising from degradation of existing habitats are more likely to facilitate extinction than those arising from the addition of novel trap habitat. The framework also reveals the mechanisms of these outcomes and the substantial scope for persistence via rapid evolution that may buffer many populations from extinction. The framework will also come in handy to resolve the paradox of continued persistence of many species in dramatically altered landscapes.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

A classic case of myrmecotrophic mutualism

In the association between the carnivorous pitcher plant, Nepenthes bicalcarata, and Camponotus schmitzi ants in Borneo, the ants benefit by getting food and nesting space. In return C. schmitzi ants regularly clean the pitcher rim (peristome), which is the main surface used by the plant for prey capture. This behaviour increases the carnivorous plant’s prey capture efficiency. It also helps the plant to keep the pitchers effective over long periods of time.

Journal reference
Setting the trap: cleaning behaviour of Camponotus schmitzi ants increases long-term capture efficiency of their pitcher plant host, Nepenthes bicalcarata
Daniel G. Thornham,Joanna M. Smith,T. Ulmar Grafe and Walter Federle , Functional Ecology, Volume 26, Issue 1, pages 11–19, February 2012

The need for a shakeup in wildlife setup - Another guest post from Ramesh

Guest post from Ramesh

This post is an adjunct to my last post on my visit to Eravikulam.

Why is it that we are unable to build a cadre of officers truly dedicated to wildlife conservation? The knowledge about wildlife of some of our officers’ manning wildlife reserves is abysmally poor. Commitment to welfare of wildlife is unheard of in their dictionary. Pandering to the whims and fancies of higher ups and politicians gets them the kind of posting they want in their preferred areas.

Last year my friend Mohanji made a quick reconnaissance of untrained officers manning some of our wildlife reserves. What he found was shocking. Many of the officers had absolutely no inkling about the advances in wildlife management. They don’t read the scientific literature pertaining to their filed. When confronted with questions pertaining to wildlife they beat around the bush in their effort to make an impression and in the process cut a very sorry figure.

The rot is very serious in the lower echelons. Building a band of dedicated frontline staff is not that difficult. In every recruitment programme of forest department there are at least a couple of good guys who are keen about wildlife. Why is it that we are unable to identify them and post them in wildlife and keep them there? If there is will we can easily assemble a dedicated team in a matter of 5 years.  Again another quote from Mohanji “  Trying to inculcate the ethics of wildlife conservation in forest guards who have put in years of service in regular forestry operations is sheer waste of time’.  I have absolutely no hesitation in emphasising that the main stumbling block is lack of political will. The local cronies of big time politicians call the shots and even dedicated guys that you can count on your fingers lose heart within a short span.

Time is running out. The imperative for a major shake up in the wildlife set up is clearly visible. If we don’t wake up and do something immediately the story of disappearing tigers, rhinos et al will continue to haunt us.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

First satellite-tagging study of tiger sharks

Researchers from the University of Miami, Florida have completed the first satellite-tagging study of tiger sharks (Galeocerdo cuvier). The main aim of the researchers was to find out how ecotourism impacts tiger sharks .Companies offering shark dives offer food to attract the sharks. There is raging debate whether this is OK or not. The researchers studied two separate populations of tiger sharks: one that originated in Florida and the other in the Bahamas.

Have a look at the video to finds out what the researcher say

Friday, March 09, 2012

Cheetahs facing crunch situation

I read this excellent report in Guardian about Cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus) losing its ability to reproduce because of climate change. The conclusions were arrived at by Scientists with the National Museums of Kenya (NMK) and the Kenya Wildlife Service after extensive research. Cheetahs have developed abnormal coils in its sperm as a result of warmer temperatures, affecting the big cat's ability to reproduce. Read the full report in Guardian HERE

Wildlife mangers, it time to keep your eyes peeled.Look for any unusual changes in your area and work hand in hand with field biologists to stem things in the beginning itself.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Environmental Toxicants can manifest for generations

Latest research on environmental toxicants indicates that that a variety of environmental toxicants can have negative effects for generations.

 The researchers found that even though the animal’s DNA sequence remains unchanged, the deleterious effects manifests clearly on the epigenetic effect. Jet fuel, dioxin, plastics and the pesticides DEET and permethrin have been shown to be causative agents of epigenetic disease across generations.

 The plastics, dioxin and jet fuel were found to promote early-onset female puberty transgenerationally.  Spermatogenic cell apoptosis was affected transgenerationally.

 Exposure-specific epigenetic biomarkers were identified. The researchers say this  may allow for the assessment of ancestral environmental exposures associated with adult onset disease.

Journal Reference:
Mohan Manikkam, Carlos Guerrero-Bosagna, Rebecca Tracey, Md. M. Haque, Michael K. Skinner.Transgenerational Actions of Environmental Compounds on Reproductive Disease and Identification of Epigenetic Biomarkers of Ancestral Exposures. PLoS ONE, 2012; 7 (2): e31901 DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0031901

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

An attempt at integrating history and ecology

Advancing the Integration of History and Ecology for Conservation
Conservation Biology, Volume 25, Issue 4, pages 680–687, August 2011

Even though the role of humans in shaping current ecosystems was recognized decades ago, the integration of history and ecology as conservation too has been difficult.
The researchers here identified four issues that hinder historical ecological research and discuss possible solutions.

1) Differences in concepts and methods between the fields of ecology and history are large. The fact is that differences arise from miscommunication between ecologists and historians. The researchers say the differences are less substantial than is usually assumed. Cooperation can be achieved by focusing on the features ecology and history has in common and through understanding and acceptance of differing points of view.
2) Historical ecological research is often hamstrung by differences in spatial and temporal scales between ecology and history. The researchers argue that historical ecological research can only be conducted at extents for which sources in both disciplines have comparable resolutions. Researchers must begin by clearly defining the relevant scales for the given purpose.
3) The periods for which quantitative historical sources are not easily accessible (before AD 1800) have been neglected in historical ecological research. However data from periods before 1800 are as relevant to the current state of ecosystems as more recent data. The researchers suggest that historical ecologists actively seek out data from before 1800 and apply analytic methods commonly used in ecology to these data.
4)Humans are not usually considered an intrinsic ecological factor in current ecological research. In the view of researchers human societies should be acknowledged as integral parts of ecosystems and societal processes should be recognized as driving forces of ecosystem change.